Dr Antonio Peña-Fernández is a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical & Medical Sciences in the Leicester School of Allied Health Sciences at De Montfort University (UK). Antonio has a PhD in Physiology and Toxicology from the University of Alcalá (2011) and is a Senior Fellow of the HEA. In this blog he discusses the training he presented at the NET2018 conference. The NET conference is the leading annual international conference for networking in healthcare education.
Health professionals were critical responders to the unprecedented 2014-16 Ebola crisis in West Africa, which highlighted the lack of training, capabilities and skills to face biological incidents. We have created successful novel training to face these events for undergraduate students.
Pedagogic research and innovation are necessary to cover gaps in curricula and develop novel competences, training and courses to meet future work needs and develop a workforce with the necessary skills to respond to different growing societal challenges and health threats such as emerging diseases.
Following my voluntary and temporary work as a biomedical scientist at the Public Health England Ebola mobile laboratory in Makeni (Sierra Leone) in 2015, the lack of training to respond to biological incidents (the release of biological hazards) in most European undergraduate programmes became evident, despite biomedical scientists and other health professionals being instrumental in stopping the Ebola pandemic.
In collaboration with EU academics, virologists and other first responders with experience from the field, I created basic competencies for human health science students to respond to the events that encompass those identified by the European Commission to tackle major CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) events. The novel training created at De Montfort University consists of different theoretical and practical components to cover all the phases to respond to these events, including acute and post-acute phases. The training has been shown to be effective in facilitating the acquisition of the developed competencies by health science students and the necessary skills to respond to minor biological events.
Presenting this novel training at the NET2018 conference, celebrated in the iconic university city of Cambridge last September, was a thrilling experience in which I was able to share and model the novel competencies that health care professionals should have when facing future biological threats to protect the public.
This conference was not the typical meeting in which you present your work to build your CV, on the contrary, in my strand, I met passionate academics showing novel actions and training that they are undertaking in the educational arena for forming future health care workers.
The conference delegates not only helped me with disseminating my pedagogic research (for example, an academic invited me to present at her institution) but, on that day, they provided value to undertake pedagogic research. Thus, I was emboldened to get out of my comfort zone and explore further actions to develop a most robust and complete training course to respond to CBRN events.
However, I also discovered that most presenters were finding it challenging to deliver their courses or interventions in their Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) due to financial constraints. Traditionally there has been a differentiation between academics that perform biomedical research from those that perform pedagogic research in biosciences. Investing in pedagogic research was not seen as critical or as necessary as investing in biomedical research to form future health workforces with the necessary skills to respond to future public health threats, societal or environmental needs. Fortunately, this gap is being narrowed and modern HEIs are displaying more efforts to enhance pedagogic research and teaching innovation due to the benefits and impact this has not only in the institutions but also to meet future students’ interests aligned with future work expectations and needs. The increasing interest in pedagogic research is evident in national and international biomedical societies, which are introducing small schemes to fund projects related with teaching innovation; as well as in bioscience congresses, which are incorporating a theme to cover novel work produced on this area.
Interventions should be in place for continuing this transition to close the gap and interrelate both types of research. Will pedagogic research and innovation be supported in HEIs despite growing pressure related to league tables or fears related to a future lack of funds due to a myriad of factors including Brexit?
NET2019, the leading annual international conference for networking in healthcare education returns from 3rd-5th September 2019 at Keele University to celebrate its 30th anniversary.